He was one of the UK’s brightest tech stars, the man behind the hugely popular children’s game Moshi Monsters. Then, as his business’s fortunes waned, Michael Acton Smith headed to California to start something new.
Now his meditation and mindfulness app Calm has achieved something he never reached with his previous businesses – unicorn status. In other words, a new funding round which has raised $88m (£68m) from investors, values the company at $1bn.
“Twenty-one months ago there were nine of us in a one-bed apartment – now we’re the world’s first first mental health unicorn,” Mr Acton Smith tells me in a phone call from San Francisco.
Calm, which was named iPhone app of the year by Apple in 2017, started with a focus on meditation but has broadened its scope to other wellbeing issues such as curing insomnia.
The most popular feature is what Mr Acton Smith describes as “bedtime stories for grown-ups”, read by people like Stephen Fry and Matthew McConaughey.
The app – which has been downloaded about 40 million times – is free, but a million of its users pay around $70 a year to get premium content. Revenue is on course to hit $150m this year and the business is profitable.